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Ballpark Index Statistic: Who Has The Edge?
Thursday, February 02, 2006
As anyone who has seen a lefty send a ball sailing over the right field wall in Fenway or watched a slugger struggle to get a home run in RFK can attest, each MLB ballpark’s design offers unique challenges and benefits to the players gracing its fields. Ballparks are as unique as the teams they host, and with the exception of details like the distance between the bases, each team has the freedom to build their stadium however they please - - whether that means putting a flagpole smack in the middle of the outfield or bringing in right field wall. Variations like these not only allow the park to have distinctive appearances but make a huge impact on the players. Parks with short left fields, for instance, will allow righty batters to hit more home runs, while stadiums with massive outfields are more likely to slow down a slugger’s power numbers. Ballpark Index, AKA Ballpark Factor or BPF, is a statistic that quantifies the advantages or disadvantages that each stadium gives to the players; this is where the terms “hitters park” and “pitchers park” come from.

The calculation for BPF is quite involved and takes many factors into consideration, such as the natural propensity for a team to do better in their home stadium than on the road and the fact that teams don’t have to face their own pitchers. I will post the complete equation in the Yankees Chick Glossary tomorrow, but for brevity’s sake suffice it to say that the index compares a team’s performance in their home stadium to their performance on the road, calculating the number of runs created and the number of runs allowed. By comparing a team’s road numbers and home numbers, we can see how a stadium is affecting a team’s ability to score runs. A BPF of 100 is considered neutral; in other words, the ballpark offers no distinct advantage to pitchers or hitters. A BPF greater than 100 is considered to be a hitters park, and a BPF less than 100 offers an advantage to the pitcher.

Several statisticians have calculated their own BPFs, but the one I am using here is from Bill James, sabermetric extraordinaire. James used data from the 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons to calculate these indices, except in the cases of RFK (the Expos have played just one season there) and Petco (the Padres have played only two seasons there).

posted by Yankees Chick @ Thursday, February 02, 2006  
  • At 10:20 AM, Blogger statsman said…

    Hey Chick, good info here. In my opinion, James relies too much on team performance. Pac Bell is rated 104 mainly because Bonds and company were juiced to play there 2 out of last 3 years. Once Bonds is gone Pac Ball will drop in rankings. The Reds park is rated a pitchers park because they had bad offensive teams until last year. Another great offensive year and it'll be a hitters park in James' rankings. Unless something drastically changes to a park, the Red Sox put up a big Jimmy Fund sign years ago which changed the wind flow in the park and slowed Fenway hitters down a little, park rankings should remain relatively stable. James', and most other statiticians rankings, are always changing based upon team performance.

    In my opinion, individual performance should be the barometer. Brad Wilkerson was a pretty good offensive player in Montreal, but his stats really suffered in Washington. Dante Bichette wasn't much of a hitter before, or after, Colorado.

    You got a great blog!

  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger Cap said…

    Great blog even though I hate the Yanks! Very good info, but, as all statistics are a little skewed, I have to agree with statsman that individual players stats are a better barometer than team stats. If you were to go back to the years 1994-2001, Jacobs Field in Cleveland would have been one of the top hitters parks in baseball. Now, with one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, it is showing up as a pitcher's park. I'm sure the same can be said from others as well...I just grew up there, so I remember the days of Thome, Belle, Ramirez, etc.

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